Carl Lutz

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Carl Lutz
Carl Lutz fortepan 105824.jpg
Lutz in 1944
Swiss Vice-Consul to Hungary for Budapest
In office
January 1942 1945
Personal details
Born(1895-03-30)30 March 1895
Walzenhausen, Switzerland
Died12 February 1975(1975-02-12) (aged 79)
Bern, Switzerland

Carl Lutz (30 March 1895 – 12 February 1975) was a Swiss diplomat. He served as the Swiss Vice-Consul in Budapest, Hungary from 1942 until the end of World War II. He is credited with saving over 62,000 Jews, the largest rescue operation of Jews of the Second World War. [1] [2]

Switzerland federal republic in Central Europe

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated in western, central, and southern Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. The sovereign state is a federal republic bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8.5 million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich and Geneva.

Budapest Capital city in Hungary

Budapest is the capital and the most populous city of Hungary, and the tenth-largest city in the European Union by population within city limits. The city had an estimated population of 1,752,704 in 2016 distributed over a land area of about 525 square kilometres. Budapest is both a city and county, and forms the centre of the Budapest metropolitan area, which has an area of 7,626 square kilometres and a population of 3,303,786, comprising 33 percent of the population of Hungary.

Hungary Country in Central Europe

Hungary is a country in Central Europe. Spanning 93,030 square kilometres (35,920 sq mi) in the Carpathian Basin, it borders Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Austria to the northwest, Romania to the east, Serbia to the south, Croatia to the southwest, and Slovenia to the west. With about 10 million inhabitants, Hungary is a medium-sized member state of the European Union. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken Uralic language in the world. Hungary's capital and largest city is Budapest. Other major urban areas include Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs and Győr.


Due to his actions, half of the Jewish population of Budapest survived and was not deported to Nazi extermination camps during the Holocaust. He was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

Extermination camp Nazi death camps established during World War II to primarily kill Jews

Nazi Germany built extermination camps during the Holocaust in World War II, to systematically kill millions of Jews, Slavs, Poles, Roma, Soviet POWs, political opponents and others whom the Nazis considered "Untermenschen" ("subhumans"). The victims of death camps were primarily killed by gassing, either in permanent installations constructed for this specific purpose, or by means of gas vans. Some Nazi camps, such as Auschwitz and Majdanek, served a dual purpose before the end of the war in 1945: extermination by poison gas, but also through extreme work under starvation conditions.

Righteous Among the Nations honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis

Righteous Among the Nations is an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis. The term originates with the concept of "righteous gentiles", a term used in rabbinic Judaism to refer to non-Jews, called ger toshav, who abide by the Seven Laws of Noah.

Yad Vashem Israels official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust

Yad Vashem is Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It is dedicated to preserving the memory of the dead; honoring Jews who fought against their Nazi oppressors and Gentiles who selflessly aided Jews in need; and researching the phenomenon of the Holocaust in particular and genocide in general, with the aim of avoiding such events in the future.

Early life and education

Lutz was born on 30 March 1895 to Johannes and Ursula Lutz in Walzenhausen, Switzerland, in the mountains of the canton of Appenzell in the northeast of Switzerland, and attended local schools. [1] [3] His father owned a sandstone quarry. [1] In 1909 when he was 14 years old his mother died of tuberculosis. [1] At the age of 15 he began working in an apprenticeship in a textile mill in St. Margrethen. [3] [1]

A canton is a type of administrative division of a country. In general, cantons are relatively small in terms of area and population when compared with other administrative divisions such as counties, departments, or provinces. Internationally, the best-known cantons - and the most politically important - are those of Switzerland. As the constituents of the Swiss Confederation, theoretically, the Swiss cantons are semi-sovereign states.

Appenzell is a historic canton in the northeast of Switzerland, and entirely surrounded by the canton of St. Gallen.

Sandstone A clastic sedimentary rock composed mostly of sand-sized particles

Sandstone is a clastic sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized mineral particles or rock fragments.

He immigrated in 1913 at the age of 18 to the United States, where he lived and worked for more than 20 years. He worked in Granite City, Illinois, from 1913–18 to earn money for college, and started his studies at Central Wesleyan College in Warrenton, Missouri from 1918–20. [4] [5] [1]

Granite City, Illinois City in Illinois, United States

Granite City is a city in Madison County, Illinois, United States, within the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area. The population was 29,849 at the 2010 census, making it the second-largest city in the Metro East and Southern Illinois regions, behind Belleville. Officially founded in 1896, Granite City was named by the Niedringhaus brothers, William and Frederick, who established it as a steel making company town for the manufacture of kitchen utensils made to resemble granite.

Central Wesleyan College

Central Wesleyan College was a private college sponsored by the Methodist Church in Warrenton, Missouri from 1864 to 1941.

Warrenton, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Warrenton is a city in Warren County, Missouri, United States. The population was 7,880 according to the 2010 Census. It is the county seat of Warren County. Warrenton is located in the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area. Warrenton's slogan is "A City for All Seasons."

In 1920, Lutz found a job in the Swiss consular corps at the Swiss Legation in Washington, D.C. [3] He continued his education there at George Washington University, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1924. [6] During his time in Washington, D.C., Lutz lived in Dupont Circle. He continued to work for the Swiss Legation.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

George Washington University university in Washington, D.C.

The George Washington University is a private research university in Washington, D.C. It was chartered in 1821 by an act of the United States Congress.

Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Dupont Circle is a traffic circle, park, neighborhood, and historic district in Northwest Washington, D.C.. The Dupont Circle neighborhood is bounded approximately by 16th Street NW to the east, 22nd Street NW to the west, M Street NW to the south, and Florida Avenue NW to the north. Much of the neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, the local government Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the Dupont Circle Historic District have slightly different boundaries.

Diplomatic career

In 1926, Lutz was appointed as chancellor at the Swiss Consulate in Philadelphia, United States. He next was assigned to the Swiss Consulate in St. Louis, and served in total from 1926 to 1934 in the two cities.

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, sometimes known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2017 census-estimated population of 1,580,863. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

St. Louis Independent city in the United States

St. Louis is an independent city and major inland port in the U.S. state of Missouri. It is situated along the western bank of the Mississippi River, which marks Missouri's border with Illinois. The Missouri River merges with the Mississippi River just north of the city. These two rivers combined form the fourth longest river system in the world. The city had an estimated 2017 population of 308,626 and is the cultural and economic center of the St. Louis metropolitan area, which is the largest metropolitan area in Missouri, the second-largest in Illinois, and the 22nd-largest in the United States.

In 1934, he met his first wife, Gertrud Fankhauser, and they married in January 1935. [4] [1] Lutz left the United States after more than 20 years. He was assigned in January 1935 as vice-consul to the Swiss Consulate General in Jaffa, in what was then Mandatory Palestine. In 1936, from their apartment he and his wife saw an unarmed Jew being lynched by an Arab crowd. [1] He served there until 1942.

Actions during the Second World War

Appointed in 1942 as Swiss vice-consul in Budapest, Hungary, Lutz soon began cooperating with the Jewish Agency for Israel. He issued Swiss safe-conduct documents that enabled almost 10,000 Hungarian Jewish children to emigrate, and saved over 62,000 Jews. [1]

Jewish people waiting in line at the Glass House (Uveghaz) in Budapest, 1944. This photograph was taken by Agnes Hirschi, Carl Lutz's daughter Budapest, V. Vadasz utca 29. - Cop, standing in line, yellow star.Fortepan 105767.jpg
Jewish people waiting in line at the Glass House (Üvegház) in Budapest, 1944. This photograph was taken by Agnes Hirschi, Carl Lutz's daughter

Once the Nazis took over Budapest in 1944, they began deporting Jews to the death camps. Lutz negotiated a special deal with the Hungarian government and the Nazis. He gained permission to issue protective letters to 8,000 Hungarian Jews for emigration to Palestine. [7] [2]

Lutz deliberately used his permission for 8,000 as applying to families rather than individuals, and proceeded to issue tens of thousands of additional protective letters, all of them bearing a number between one and 8,000. He also set up some 76 "safe houses" around Budapest, declaring them annexes of the Swiss legation and thus off-limits to Hungarian forces or Nazi soldiers. Among the safe houses was the now well known "Glass House" (Üvegház) at Vadász Street 29. About 3,000 Hungarian Jews found refuge at the Glass House and in a neighboring building.

One day, in front of the fascist Arrow Cross Party militiamen while they fired at Jews, Lutz jumped in the Danube River to save a bleeding Jewish woman along the quay that today bears his name in Budapest (Carl Lutz Rakpart). With water up to his chest and covering his suit, the consul swam back to the bank with her and asked to speak to the Hungarian officer in charge of the firing squad. Declaring the wounded woman a foreign citizen protected by Switzerland and quoting international covenants, the Swiss consul brought her back to his car in front of the stunned fascists and left quietly. Fearing to shoot at this tall man who seemed to be important and spoke so eloquently, no one dared to stop him. [2]

The Raoul Wallenberg-memorial at the Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest. Lutz name shows together with other heroes 2011-04-11 Grosse Synagoge Budapest 07.jpg
The Raoul Wallenberg-memorial at the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest. Lutz name shows together with other heroes

Together with other diplomats of neutral countries, such as Raoul Wallenberg, appointed at the Swedish embassy, Carlos de Liz-Texeira Branquinho and Sampaio Garrido at the Portuguese Embassy, Angelo Rotta, the Apostolic nuncio of the Holy See; Angel Sanz Briz, the Spanish Minister, later followed by Giorgio Perlasca, an Italian businessman working at the Spanish embassy, and Friedrich Born, the Swiss delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Lutz worked relentlessly for many months to prevent the planned deaths of innocent people. He and his colleagues dodged the actions of their German and Hungarian counterparts. Thanks to his diplomatic skills, Lutz succeeded in persuading Hungarian and Nazi German officials, among them Adolf Eichmann, to tolerate, at least in part, his formal protection of Hungarian Jews. Lutz's efforts to undermine the Nazi genocide were so bold and so extensive that, in November 1944, Proconsul Edmund Veesenmayer, the German representative in Hungary, asked permission to assassinate the Swiss Consul; Berlin never answered.

The Swiss Minister, Maximilian Jaeger, supported Lutz until his departure at his government's orders as the Soviet Army approached in late 1944. [8] In the last weeks before the Red Army took the city, Lutz was helped by Harald Feller, who took over responsibility of the Swiss legation after Jaeger's departure. [8] Lutz's wife Gertrud ('Trudi') notably played a central supporting role during the whole period of her husband's activities in Budapest.

After the Second World War

Carl Lutz and his wife returned to Switzerland in January 1945 and divorced in 1946, and in 1949 he re-married, to Magda Csányi, who during the war had asked him to protect her and her daughter, Agnes. [4] [8] [9] He retired in 1961. [8] [4] From 1945–54 he was stationed in Berne and Zurich, Section for Foreign Interests of the Federal Political Department, and from 1952–61 he was Consul General in Bregenz, Austria. [4]

Lutz died in Bern, Switzerland, in 1975. [10]

Legacy and honours

Lutz saved the lives of tens of thousands of people. As in the case of Paul Grüninger, however, his achievements were not immediately recognized in Switzerland. Soon after the war, he was first criticized by the Swiss government for having exceeded his authority, as officials were fearful of endangering Switzerland's neutral status. [8] Many years later, in 1958, as part of Swiss national rethinking of the war years, Lutz was "rehabilitated" in terms of public reputation, and his achievements were honored. [8]

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Grunwald-Spier, Agnes; Gilbert, Martin (26 December 2010). Other Schindlers: Why Some People Chose to Save Jews in the Holocaust. History Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN   978-0-7524-6243-1.
  2. 1 2 3 Tschuy, Theo. Dangerous Diplomacy: The Story of Carl Lutz, Rescuer of 62,000 Hungarian Jews, 2000. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. ISBN   0-8028-3905-3
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wagner, Meir; Meisels, Moshe (2001). The Righteous of Switzerland: Heroes of the Holocaust. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. pp. 188–189. ISBN   978-0-88125-698-7.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Chronology of Rescue by Charles "Carl" Lutz — Rescue in the Holocaust. Retrieved on 26 February 2018.
  5. Paldiel, Mordecai (2007). Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. pp. 122–. ISBN   978-0-88125-909-4.
  6. Schelbert, Leo (21 May 2014). "Lutz, Carl Robert". Historical Dictionary of Switzerland . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 232–. ISBN   978-1-4422-3352-2.
  7. Braham, Randolph L.; Scott Miller (1998). The Nazis' Last Victims: The Holocaust in Hungary. Wayne State University Press. pp. 143–144. ISBN   0-8143-3095-9.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Bartrop, Paul R.; Dickerman, Michael (15 September 2017). The Holocaust: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection [4 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 414–. ISBN   978-1-4408-4084-5.
  9. Carl Lutz – The Swiss man who saved tens of thousands of Jews: History, at Accessed 4 January 2018
  10. Los Angeles Museum of The Holocaust: Carl Lutz Accessed 4 January 2018
  11. Carl Lutz – his activity to save Jews' lives during the Holocaust, at Yad Vashem website
  12. James Irwin (Posthumous award of the George Washington University President's Medal to Lutz), pages 12/13. Accessed 5 January 2018
  13. Scenic Lookout Dedicated in Memory of Carl Lutz – Green Israel. Jerusalem Post (4 December 2017). Retrieved on 2018-02-26.
  14. "'Swiss Schindler' honoured with room in Federal Palace". The Local . Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  15. "Swiss honor diplomat who saved thousands of Jews". Jewish Telegraphic Agency . Retrieved 15 February 2018.



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